I’ve always envied top executives at large companies. When they get stuck on an issue, they can simply pick up the phone and call their board of directors for clarity and advice. However, there aren’t a lot of CEOs in this country with big boards of directors. Most are small business people. We make up the majority of companies in America and we don’t have the luxury of being able to lean on a formal board. We don’t have a built-in place to go for clarity and advice.
That’s why it is important to create your own personal board of directors to act as a sounding board and offer an outside perspective to the problems and issues that need to be confronted.
How do you acquire a personal board of directors? I like to think of it as a collection of “wingmen” (or “wingwomen”). The term “wingman” is military in origin. According to the U.S. Air Force, a pair of fighter jets always fly in formation with a lead aircraft while the other jet flies just off the right wing and slightly behind the lead pilot. This second pilot is called the “wingman” and is given the charge to watch the lead pilot’s back.
Wingmen Fly By Your Side
In relational terms, a wingman is someone who’ll fly by your side, be prepared to watch your flank and see things that you don’t see. A wingman is a sounding board, a strong listener who’s available at any time to have a discussion with you about what’s happening in your life and what you’re feeling.
Wingmen Know and Like You
A wingman is someone who knows and likes you – someone you can trust to keep your conversations confidential. A wingman will pick you up when you fall down and get in the foxhole with you when times are tough. A wingman will tell you to keep your head down until the offensive fusillade is over and encourage you to leap into the unknown when the time is right.
Wingmen Give Valuable Advice & Feedback
I first embraced the wingman philosophy over twenty years ago when I was the young co-owner of a manufacturing company in Milwaukee. I was at an impasse with my partner and felt isolated and stuck. I didn’t know where to go. So I turned to my cousin Bobby who asked the right questions and offered a fresh perspective. In the end, he helped me think through how I could sell my half of the company and net a substantial profit.
In life and business, we all need someone like my cousin Bobby to watch our backs. The road to success in life is a bumpy one, filled with a lot of ups and downs. Wingmen will help to monitor the highs and lows and hopefully in the process, help us avoid a devastating crash. They are there to let you know when you’re flying off course or into a raging hurricane.
If you don’t have a wingman – someone you can trust as a confidant –go through your contact list and ask yourself whom you could approach. Hopefully you have friends or business associates who you know, like, and trust, and who can act as trustees for your business or your own personal well-being. Tell them that you need a sounding board, someone with whom you can discuss what’s happening in your life and who can help you see things or situations that you may be overlooking. Even better is when you can find someone who’d be a good wingman for both your personal and professional life.
Do you fly solo or have a wingman helping protect and guide you as challenges come?
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdasmarchives/